THE STRING OF PEARLS by James Malcolm Rymer and Thomas Peckett Prest
XXV Mr. Fogg’s Story at the Madhouse
After a short pause, during which Mr Fogg appeared to be referring to the cells of his memory, with the view of being refreshed m a matter that had long since been a bygone, but which he desired to place as clearly before his listener as he could, in fact, to make if possible that relation real to him, and to omit nothing during its progress that should be told; or possibly that amiable individual was engaged in considering if there were any salient points that might incriminate himself, or give even a friend a handle to make use of against him, but apparently there was nothing of the kind, for, after a loud ‘hem!’ he filled the glasses, saying,
‘Well, now, as you are a friend, I don’t mind telling you how we do business here—things that have been done, you know, by others; but I have had my share as well as others—I have known a thing or two, Mr Todd, and I may say I have done a thing or two, too.’
‘Well, we must all live and let live,’ said Sweeney Todd, ‘there’s no going against that, you know; if all I have done could speak, why—but no matter, I am listening to you—however, if deeds could speak, one or two clever things would come out, rather, I think.’
‘Ay, ‘tis well they don’t,’ said Mr Fogg, with much solemnity, ‘if they did, they would constantly be speaking at times when it would be very inconvenient to hear them, and dangerous besides.’
‘So it would,’ said Sweeney, ‘a still tongue makes a wise head—but, then the silent system would bring no grist to the mill, and we must speak when we know we are right and among friends.’
‘Of course,’ said Fogg, ‘of course, that’s the right use of speech, and one may as well be without it as to have it and not use it; but come—drink, and fill again before I begin, and then to my tale. But we may as well have sentiment. Sentiment, you know,’ continued Fogg, ‘is the very soul of friendship. What do you say to “The heart that can feel for another”?’
‘With all my soul,’ said Sweeney Todd; ‘it’s very touching—very touching indeed. “The heart that can feel for another!”’ and as he spoke, he emptied the glass, which he pushed towards Fogg to refill.
‘Well,’ said Fogg, as he complied, ‘we have had the sentiment, we may as well have the exemplification.’
‘Ha! ha! ha!’ said Todd, ‘very good, very good indeed; pray go on, that will do capitally.’
‘I may as well tell you the whole matter, as it occurred; I will then let you know all I know, and in the same manner. None of the parties are now living, or, at least, they are not in this country, which is just the same thing, so far as I am concerned.’
‘Then that is an affair settled and done with,’ remarked Sweeney Todd parenthetically.
‘Yes, quite. Well, it was one night—such a one as this, and pretty well about the same hour, perhaps somewhat earlier than this. However, it doesn’t signify a straw about the hour; but it was quite night, a dark and wet night too, when a knock came at the street door—a sharp double knock it was. I was sitting alone, as I might have been now, drinking a glass or two of wine; I was startled, for I was thinking about an affair I had on hand at that very moment, of which there was a little stir.
‘However, I went to the door, and peeped through a grating that I had there, and saw only a man; he had drawn his horse inside the gate, and secured him; he wore a large Whitney riding coat with a cape that would have thrown off a deluge.
‘I fancied, or I thought I could tell, that he meant no mischief; so I opened the door at once and saw a tall gentlemanly man, but wrapped up so, that you could not tell who or what he was; but my eyes are sharp, you know, Mr Todd: we haven’t seen so much of the world without learning to distinguish what kind of person one has to deal with.’
‘I should think not,’ said Todd.
“Well,” said I, “what is your pleasure?”
‘The stranger paused a moment or two before he made any reply to me.
‘“Is your name Fogg?” he said.
“Yes, it is,” said I, “what is your pleasure, sir?”
‘“Why,” said he, after another pause, during which he fixed his eye very hard upon me—”why, I wish to have a little private conversation with you, if you can spare so much time, upon a very important matter which I have in hand.”
“Walk in, sir,” said I, as soon as I heard what it was he wanted, and he followed me in. “It is a very unpleasant night, and it’s coming on to rain harder: I think it is fortunate you have got housed.”
‘He came into this very parlour, and took a seat before the fire, with his back to the light, so that I couldn’t see his face very well.
‘However, I was determined that I would be satisfied in those particulars, and so, when he had taken off his hat, I stirred up the fire, and made a blaze that illuminated the whole room, and which showed me the sharp, thin visage of my visitor, who was a dark man with keen grey eyes that were very restless.
‘“Will you have a glass of wine?” said I; “the night is cold as well as wet.”
‘“Yes, I will,” he replied; “I am cold with riding. You have a lonely place about here; your house, I see, stands alone too. You have not many neighbours.”
“No, sir,” said I; “we hadn’t need, for when any of the poor things set to screaming, it would make them feel very uncomfortable indeed.”
‘“So it would; there is an advantage in that both to yourself as well as to them. It would be disagreeable to you to know that you were disturbing your neighbours, and they would feel equally uncomfortable in being disturbed, and yet you must do your duty.”
‘“Ay! to be sure,” said I; “I must do my duty, and people won’t pay me for letting madmen go, though they may for keeping them; and besides that, I think some on ‘em would get their throats cut if I did.”
‘“You are right—quite right,” said he; “I am glad to find you of that mind, for I came to you about an affair that requires some delicacy about it, since it is a female patient.”
‘“Ah!” said I, “I always pay a great attention, very great attention, and I don’t recollect a case, however violent it may be, but what I can overcome. I always make ‘em acknowledge me, and there’s much art in that.”
‘“To be sure, there must be.”
‘“And moreover, they wouldn’t so soon crouch and shrink away from me, and do what I tell ‘em, if I did not treat them with kindness, that is, as far as is consistent with one’s duty, for I mustn’t forget that.”
‘“Exactly,” he replied; “those are my sentiments exactly.”
‘“And now, sir, will you inform me in what way I can serve you?”
‘“Why, I have a relative—a female relative, who is unhappily affected with a brain disease; we have tried all we can do, without any effect. Do what we will, it comes to the same thing in the end.”
‘“Ah!” said I; “poor thing—what a dreadful thing it must be to you or any of her friends, who have the charge of her, to see her day by day an incurable maniac. Why, it is just as bad as when a friend or relative was dead, and you were obliged to have the dead body constantly in your house before your eyes.
‘“Exactly, my friend,” replied the stranger, “exactly, you are a man of discernment, Mr Fogg. I see that is truly the state of the case. You may then guess at the state of our feelings, when we have to part with one beloved by us.”
‘As he spoke, he turned right round, and faced me, looking very hard into my face.
‘“Well,” said I, “yours is a hard case; but to have one afflicted about you in the manner the young lady is, is truly distressing: it is like having a perpetual lumbago in your back.”
‘“Exactly,” said the stranger. “I tell you what, you are the very man to do this thing for me.”
“I am sure of it,” said I.
‘“Then we understand each other, eh?” said the stranger. “I must say I like your appearance; it is not often such people as you and I meet.”
‘“I hope it will be to our mutual advantage,” said I, “because such people don’t meet every day, and we oughtn’t to meet to no purpose; so, in anything delicate and confidential, you may command me.”
‘“I see you are a clever man,” said he; “well, well, I must pay you in proportion to your talents. How do you do business—by the job, or by the year?”
‘“Well,” said I, “where it’s a matter of some nicety it maybe both -but it entirely depends upon circumstances. I had better know exactly what it is I have to do.”
‘“Why, you see, it is a young female about eighteen, and she is somewhat troublesome, takes to screaming and all that kind of thing. I want her taken care of, though you must be very careful she neither runs away, or suddenly commits any mischief, as her madness does not appear to me to have any particular form, and would, at times, completely deceive the best of us, and then suddenly she will break out violently, and snap or fly at anybody with her teeth.”
“Is she so bad as that?”
‘“Yes, quite. So, it is quite impossible to keep her at home; and I expect it will be a devil of a job to get her here. I tell you what you shall have; I’ll pay you your yearly charge for board and care, and you’ll come and assist me in securing her, and bringing her down. It will take some trouble.”
‘“Very well,” said I, “that will do; but you must double the note and make it twenty, if you please; it will cost something to come and do the job well.”
‘“I see—very well—we won’t disagree about a ten-pound note; but you’ll know how to dispose of her if she comes here.”
“Oh, yes—very healthy place.”
‘“But I don’t know that health is a very great blessing to anyone under such circumstances; indeed, who would begrudge an early grave to one severely afflicted?”
‘“Nobody ought,” said I; “if they know what mad people went through, they would not, I’m sure.”
‘“That is very true again, but the fact is, they don’t, and they only look at one side of the picture; for my own part, I think that it ought to be so ordained, that when people are so afflicted, nature ought to sink under the affliction, and so insensibly to revert to the former state of nonentity.”
‘“Well,” said I, “that may be as you please, I don’t understand all that; but I tell you what, I hope if she were to die much sooner than you expect, you would not think it too much trouble to afford me some compensation for my loss.”
‘“Oh dear no! and to show you that I shall entertain no such illiberal feeling, I will give you two hundred pounds, when the certificate of her burial can be produced. You understand me?”
‘“Her death will be of little value to me, without the legal proof,” said the stranger; “so she must die at her own pleasure, or live while she can.”
‘“Certainly,” said I.
‘“But what terrifies me,” said the stranger, “most is, her terror-stricken countenance, always staring us in our faces; and it arose from her being terrified; indeed, I think if she were thoroughly frightened, she would fall dead. I am sure, if any wickedly disposed person were to do so, death would no doubt result.”
‘“Ah!” said I, “it would be a bad job; now tell me where Jam to see you, and how about the particulars.”
‘“Oh, I will tell you; now, can you be at the corner of Grosvenor-street, near Park-lane?”
‘“Yes,” I replied, “I will.”
‘“With a coach, too. I wish you to have a coach, and one that you can depend upon, because there may be a little noise. I will try to avoid it, if possible, but we can always do what we desire; but you must have good horses.”
‘“Now, I tell you what is my plan; that is, if you don’t mind the damages, if any happen.”
‘“What are they?”
‘“This: suppose a horse falls, and is hurt, or an upset—would you stand the racket?”
‘“I would, of course.”
‘“Then listen to me; I have had more of these affairs than you have, no doubt. Well, then, I have had experience which you have not. Now, I’ll get a trotting-horse, and a covered cart or chaise—one that will go along well at ten miles an hour, and no mistake about it.”
‘“But will it hold enough?”
‘“Yes, four or five or six, and upon a push, I have known eight to cram in it; but then you know we were not particular how we were placed; but still it will hold as many as a hackney coach, only not so conveniently; but then we have nobody in the affair to drive us, and there can’t be too few.”
‘“Well, that is perhaps best; but have you a man on whom you can depend, because if you could, why, I would not be in the affair at all.”
‘“You must,” said I; “in the first place, I can depend upon one man best; him I must leave here to mind the place; so if you can manage the girl, I will drive, and know the road as well as the way to my own mouth; I would rather have as few in it as possible.”
‘“Your precaution is very good, and I think I will try and manage it, that there shall be only you and I acquainted with the transaction; at all events, should it become necessary, it will be time enough to let some other person into the secret at the moment their services are required. That, I think, will be the best arrangement that I can come to; what do you say?”
‘“That will do very well—when we get her here, and when I have seen a few days, I can tell you what to do with her.”
‘“Exactly; and now, good-night—there is the money I promised, and now again, good-night! I shall see you at the appointed time.”
‘“You will,” said I—”one glass more, it will do you good, and keep the rain out.”
‘He took off a glass of wine, and then pulled his hat over his face, and left the house.
‘It was a dark, wet night, and the wind blew, and we heard the sound of his horse’s hoofs for some time; however, I shut the door and went in, thinking over in my own mind what would be the gain of my own exertions.
‘Well, at the appointed time, I borrowed a chaise cart, a covered one, with what you call a head to it, and I trotted to town in it. At the appointed time, I was at the corner of Grosvenor-street; it was late, and yet I waited there an hour or more before I saw anyone.
‘I walked into a little house to get a glass of spirits to keep up the warmth of the body, and when I came out again, I saw someone standing at my horse’s head. I immediately went up.
‘“Oh, you are here,” he said.
‘“Yes, I am,” said I, “I have been here the Lord knows how long. Are you ready?”
‘“Yes, I am come,” said he, as he got into the cart, “come to the place I shall tell you—I shall only get her into the cart, and you must do the rest.”
‘“You’ll come back with me: I shall want help on the road, and I have no one with me.”
‘“Yes, I will come with you, and manage the girl, but you must drive, and take all the casualties of the road, for I shall have enough to do to hold her, and keep her from screaming, when she does awake.”
‘“What! is she asleep?”
‘“I have given her a small dose of laudanum, which will cause her to sleep comfortably for an hour or two, but the cold air and disturbance will most probably awaken her first.”
‘“Throw something over her, and keep her warm, and have something ready to thrust into her mouth, in case she takes to screaming, and then you are all right.”
‘“Good,” he replied: “now wait here. I am going to yon house. When I’ve entered, and disappeared several minutes, you may quietly drive up, and take your station on the other side of the lamp-post.”
‘As he spoke he got out, and walked to a large house which he entered softly, and left the door ajar; and after he had gone in, I walked the horse quietly up to the lamp-post, and as I placed it, the horse and front of the cart were completely in the dark.
‘I had scarcely got up to the spot, when the door opened, and he looked out to see if anybody was passing. I gave him the word, and out he came, leaving the door, and came with what looked like a bundle of clothes, but which was the young girl and some clothes he had brought with him.
‘“Give her to me,” said I, “and jump up and take the reins; go on as quickly as you can.
‘I took the girl in my arms, and handed her into the back part of the chaise, while he jumped up, and drove away. I placed the young girl in an easy position upon some hay, and stuffed the clothes under her, so as to prevent the jolting from hurting her.
“Well,” said I, “you may as well come back here, and sit beside her: she is all right. You seem rather in a stew. ~~
‘“Why, I have run with her in my arms, and altogether it has flurried me.”
‘“You had better have some brandy,” said I.
‘“No, no! don’t stop.”
‘“Pooh, pooh!” I replied, pulling up, “here is the last house we shall come to, to have a good stiff tumbler of hot brandy and water. Come, have you any change, about a sovereign will do, because I shall want change on the road? Come, be quick.”
‘He handed me a sovereign, saying, “Don’t you think it’s dangerous to stop—we may be watched, or she may wake.”
‘“Not a bit of it. She snores too loudly to wake just yet, and you’ll faint without the cordial; so keep a good look-out upon the wench, and you will recover your nerves again.”
‘As I spoke, I jumped out, and got two glasses of brandy and water, hot, strong, and sweet. I had in about two minutes made out of the house.
‘“Here,” said I, “drink—drink it all up—it will bring the eyes out of your head.”
‘I spoke the truth, for what with my recommendation and his nervousness and haste, he drank about half of it at a gulp.
‘I shall never forget his countenance. Ha! ha! ha! I can’t keep my mirth to myself. Just imagine the girl inside a covered cart, all dark, so dark that you could hardly see the outlines of the shadow of a man -and then imagine, if you can, a pair of keen eyes, that shone in the dark like cat’s eyes, suddenly give out a flash of light, and then turn round in their sockets, showing the whites awfully, and then listen to the fall of the glass, and see him grasp his throat with one hand, and thrust the other hand into his stomach.
‘There was a queer kind of voice came from his throat, and then something like a curse and a groan escaped him.
‘“Damn it,” said I; “what is the matter now—you’ve supped all the liquor—you are very nervous—you had better have another dose.”
‘“No more—no more,” he said, faintly and huskily, “no more, for God’s sake no more. I am almost choked, my throat is scalded, and my entrails on fire.”
“I told you it was hot,” said I.
‘“Yes, hot, boiling—go on. I’m mad with pain—push on.
‘“Will you have any water or anything to cool your throat?” said I.
‘“No, no—go on.
‘“Yes,” said I, “but the brandy and water is hot; however, it’s going down very fast now—very fast indeed, here is the last mouthful;” and as I said so, I gulped it down, returned with the one glass, and then paid for the damage.
‘This did not occupy five minutes, and away we came along the road at a devil of a pace, and we were all right enough; my friend behind me got over his scald, though he had a very sore gullet, and his intestines were in a very uncomfortable state; but he was better.
‘Away we rattled, the ground rattling to the horse’s hoofs and the wheels of the vehicle, the young girl still remaining in the same state of insensibility in which she had first been brought out.
‘No doubt she had taken a stronger dose of the opium than she was willing to admit. That was nothing to me, but made it all the better, because she gave the less trouble, and made it safer.
‘We got here easy enough, drove slap up to the door, which was opened in an instant, jumped out, took the girl, and carried her in.
‘When once these doors are shut upon anyone, they may rest assured that it is quite a settled thing, and they don’t get out very easy, save in a wooden surtout; indeed, I never lost a boarder by any other means; we always keep one connection, and they are usually so well satisfied, that they never take anyone away from us.
‘Well, well! I carried her indoors, and left her in a room by herself on a bed. She was a nice girl—a handsome girl, I suppose people would call her, and had a low, sweet and plaintive voice. But enough of this!
‘“She’s all right,” said I, when I returned to this room. “It’s all right—I have left her.”
‘“She isn’t dead?” he enquired, with much terror.
‘“Oh! no, no! she is only asleep, and has not woke up yet from the effects of the laudanum. Will you now give me one year’s pay in advance?”
“Yes,” he replied, as he handed the money, and the remainder of the bonds. “Now, how am I to do about getting back to London tonight?”
‘“You had better remain here.”
‘“Oh, no! I should go mad too, if I were to remain here; I must leave here soon.
‘“Well, will you go to the village inn?”
‘“How far is that off?”
‘“About a mile—you’ll reach it easy enough; I’ll drive you over for the matter of that, and leave you there. I shall take the cart there.”
“Very well, let it be so; I will go. Well, well, I am glad it is all over, and the sooner it is over for ever, the better. I am truly sorry for her, but it cannot be helped. It will kill her, I have no doubt; but that is all the better; she will escape the misery consequent upon her departure, and release us from a weight of care.”
‘“So it will,” said I, “but come, we must go at once, if going you are.
“Yes, yes,” he said hurriedly.
‘“Well, then, come along; the horse is not yet unharnessed, and if we do not make haste, we shall be too late to obtain a lodging for the night.”
‘“That is very good,” he said, somewhat wildly; “I am quite ready—quite.”
‘We left the house, and trotted off to the inn at a good rate, where we arrived in about ten minutes or less, and then I put up the horse, and saw him in the inn, and came back as quick as I could on foot. “Well, well,” I thought, “this will do, I have had a good day of it—paid well for business, and haven’t wanted for sport on the road.”
‘Well, I came to the conclusion that if the whole affair was to speedily end, it would be more in my pocket than if she were living, and she would be far happier in heaven than here, Mr Todd.’
‘Undoubtedly,’ said Mr Sweeney Todd, ‘undoubtedly that is a very just observation of yours.’
‘Well, then I set to work to find out how the matter could be managed, and I watched her until she awoke. She looked around her, and seemed much surprised, and confused, and did not seem to understand her position, while I remained near at hand.
‘She sighed deeply, and put her hand to her head, and appeared for a time quite unable to comprehend what had happened to her, or where she was.
‘I sent some tea to her, as I was not prepared to execute my purpose, and she seemed to recover, and asked some questions, but my man was dumb for the occasion, and would not speak, and the result was, she was very much frightened. I left her so for a week or two, and then, one day, I went into her cell. She had greatly altered in appearance, and looked very pale.
‘“Well,” said I, “how do you find yourself now?”
‘She looked up into my face, and shuddered; but she said in a calm voice, looking round her, “Where am I?”
‘“You are here!” said I, “and you’ll be very comfortable if you only take on kindly, but you will have a straight waistcoat put on you if you do not.”
‘“Good God!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands, “have they put me here—in—in -”
‘She could not finish the sentence, and I supplied the word which she did not utter, until I had done so, and then she screamed loudly, “A mad house!”
“Come,” said I, “this will never do; you must learn to be quiet, or you’ll have fearful consequences.”
‘“Oh, mercy, mercy! I will do no wrong! What have I done that I should be brought here—what have I done? They may have all I have if they will let me live in freedom. I care not where or how poor I may be. Oh! Henry, Henry! —if you knew where I was, would you not fly to my rescue? Yes, you would, you would!”
‘“Ah,” said I, “there is no Henry here, and you must be content to do without one.”
‘“I could not have believed that my brother would have acted such a base part. I did not think him wicked; although I knew him to be selfish, mean and stern, yet I did not think he intended such wickedness; but he thinks to rob me of all my property—yes, that is the object he has in sending me here.”
‘“No doubt,” said I.
‘“Shall I ever get out?” she enquired in a pitiful tone; “do not say my life is to be spent here.”
‘“Indeed it is,” said I; “while he lives, you’ll never leave these walls.”
‘“He shall not attain his end, for I have deeds about me that he will never be able to obtain; indeed he may kill me, but he cannot benefit by my death.”
‘“Well,” said I, “it serves him right. And how did you manage that matter—how did you contrive to get the deeds away?”
‘“Never mind that; it is a small deed, and I have secured it. I did not think he would have done this thing, but he may yet relent. Will you aid me? I shall be rich, and can pay you well.”
‘“But your brother?” said I.
‘“Oh, he is rich without mine, but he is over-avaricious; but say you will help me—only help me to get out, and you shall be no loser by the affair.”
‘“Very well,” said I. “Will you give me this deed as a security that you will keep your word?”
‘“Yes,” she replied, drawing forth the deed—a small parchment -from her bosom. “Take it, and now let me out; you shall be handsomely rewarded.”
‘“Ah!” said I, “but you must allow me first to settle this matter with my employers. You must really be mad. We do not hear of young ladies carrying deeds and parchments about them when they are in their senses.”
‘“You do not mean to betray me?” she said, springing up wildly, and running towards the deed, which I carefully placed in my breastcoat-pocket.
‘“Oh dear no! but I shall retain the deed, and speak to your brother about this matter.”
‘“My God! my God!” she exclaimed, and then she sank back on her bed, and in another moment she was covered with blood. She had burst a blood vessel.
‘I sent for a surgeon and physician, and they both gave it as their opinion that she could not be saved, and that a few hours would see the last of her.
‘That was the fact. She was dead before another half hour, and then I sent to the authorities for the purpose of burial; and, producing the certificate of the medical men, I had no difficulty, and she was buried all comfortably without any trouble.
‘“Well,” thought I, “this is a very comfortable affair, but it will be more profitable than I had any idea of, and I must get my first reward first; and if there should be any difficulty, I have the deed to fall back upon.”
‘He came down next day, and appeared with rather a long face.
‘“Well,” said he, “how do matters go here?”
“Very well,” said I; “how is your throat?”
‘I thought he cast a malicious look at me, as much as to imply he laid it all to my charge.
‘“Pretty well,” he replied; “but I was ill for three days. How is the patient?”
‘“As well as you could possibly wish,” said I.
‘“She takes it kindly, eh? Well, I hardly expected it—but no matter. She’ll be a long while on hand, I perceive. You haven’t tried the frightening system yet, then?”
‘“Hadn’t any need,” I replied, putting the certificate of her burial in his hand.
‘He jumped as if he had been stung by an adder, and turned pale; but he soon recovered, and smiled complaisantly as he said, “Ah! well, I see you have been diligent; but I should have liked to have seen her, to have asked her about a missing deed, but no matter.”
‘“Now, about the two hundred pounds,” said I.
‘“Why,” said he, “I think one will do when you come to consider what you have received, and the short space of time and all: you have had a year’s board in advance.”
‘“I know I had; but because I have done more than you expected, and in a shorter time, instead of giving me more, you have the conscience to offer me less.”
‘“No, no, not the—the—what did you call it? —we’ll have nothing said about that—but here is a hundred pounds, and you are well paid.”
“Well,” said I, taking the money, “I must have five hundred pounds at any rate, and unless you give it me, I will tell other parties where a certain deed is to be found.”
‘“The one you were alluding to. Give me four hundred more, and you shall have the deed.”
‘After much conversation and trouble he gave it to me, and I gave him the deed, with which he was well pleased, but looked hard at the money, and seemed to grieve at it very much.
‘Since that time I have heard that he was challenged by his sister’s lover, and they went out to fight a duel, and he fell—and died. The lover went to the continent, where he has since lived.’
‘Ah,’ said Sweeney Todd, ‘you had decidedly the best of this affair: nobody gained anything but you.’
‘Nobody at all that I know of, save distant relations, and I did very well; but then you know I can’t live upon nothing: it costs me something to keep my house and cellar, but I stick to business, and so I shall as long as business sticks to me.’
CONTINUES NEXT WEEK